Filson: A Factory Tour

September 17, 2013

In our October issue, out now on newsstands, we documented our recent trip to the Filson Factory in Seattle, where the great team took us around the factory floor and showed us how their heritage and artisan bags are constructed. We also got some sneak peeks into their new Seattle Life collection, some classic apparel and Filson advertising, and of course, some of the most beautifully made luggage and day bags being created today. Or 100 years ago. Here is the excerpt from the October issue: 

There is something to be said for steadfast dedication to quality, an unrequited passion for building something that stands the test of time. Actually, maybe its more impressive that said product is trying to outlive you as you live with it. Somewhere in the archives at Filson, there has got to be a usable, functional, and wonderfully broken in piece of luggage from the 1800s … and it probably wouldn’t look that much different from the bags being made today.

Founded in 1897 in the coastal Pacific Northwest city of Seattle, Filson has been building bags, clothing, and outdoor accessories that reflect not only the rugged terrain of Puget Sound and surrounding wilderness, but a sense that manufacturing and quality can be an art form.

Recently, Juxtapoz visited one of three factories that Filson runs in downtown Seattle, south of the imposing sports complexes that house the Mariners and Seahawks respectively. There is something revealing in this location; modernity looming over heritage. And perhaps this is the beauty of Filson. For over 100 years, the mission has been to create the absolute best products the world has ever seen, and that has rarely changed. Today, even in their new state-of-the-art showroom and factories, with new bags and clothing being produced that appeal to contemporary consumers, Filson stands for something that trends can’t define; timeless quality. The brand isn’t trying to redefine what they do; its about perfecting a craft they established long ago.

And yes, that is art. A bags inception takes a week, with skilled workers applying leather, molding materials, and selecting the perfect fabrics. Our visit was marked by watching a new line of backpacks for the Fall 2013 season (although their construction could suggest 2013 or 1913) go through a rigorous quality-control process. As it left the factory floor, it begins a new life, one with decades of research and perfection in its DNA, ready to outlast us all. And yes, that makes us feel reassured. Time to appreciate design that will age gracefully….

All photography by Brock Fetch.
(above, a Filson catalog from the 1930s)